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Back Page Interview, Personal/Professional Development

A Conference Focused on Doing More to Save Lives – An Interview with Aimee Gilbreath


Found-Animals_Aimee-Gilbreath_Executive-Director_headerMichelson Found Animals (foundanimals.org) is a privately funded, nonprofit organization that works alongside the animal wellbeing community to achieve one goal: find the big ideas that advance the safety of animals in our homes, our shelters, and everywhere in between. These practical solutions include responsible adoption initiatives, low-cost spay and neuter programs, and pet identification.
This year, Found Animals will be hosting the PetSmart Charities North American Spay Neuter Conference (spayneuterconference.com) to address current issues and trends, as well as provide continuing education on this important component of animal welfare. Aimee Gilbreath, the Executive Director of Found Animals, provided insight on why the conference was developed and what it has to offer veterinary professionals.

What inspired Found Animals to develop the Spay Neuter Conference, and in your opinion, how does the conference benefit veterinary professionals?

Spay/neuter continues to be the most effective form of birth control for cats and dogs. However, several factors contribute to our inability to maximize available resources. While the perception of spay/neuter is improving nationwide, more can be done to prevent unwanted litters and reduce shelter intake.

For this reason, Found Animals is hosting this conference in Austin, Texas, August 14 to 17, 2014, which will provide RACE-approved continuing education (CE) for all members of the practice team, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and practice managers. The CE tracks were developed by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (sheltervet.org) and Emancipet (emancipet.org).

The knowledge and tools presented will educate those on the front lines in order to reduce unwanted litters, shelter intake, and euthanasia. This knowledge will be shared by experts in the area of spay/neuter, who will also discuss their successes and failures and how those experiences can benefit veterinary professionals.

Is this the first year for the conference, and will it take place annually?

This is the inaugural year for the conference, and registration is filling up quickly. We have developed a dynamic, engaging agenda for attendees looking to learn, share, and discuss current trends. Early feedback has been exceptionally positive, leading us to believe there is a need and an audience for this type of content and, therefore, for future conferences.

What are the current hot topics being discussed with regard to spay/neuter, and will they be addressed at the conference?

We have many hot topics on the agenda, but two of them stand out:

  1. Pediatric spay/neuter
  2. Methods for addressing feral cat communities.

Both issues go right to the heart of why spay/neuter is so important. The earlier we spay or neuter puppies and kittens, the lower the likelihood they will have unplanned litters. While the preponderance of feral cats places a strain on the shelter community, addressing feral cat colonies has the potential to make the largest impact on reducing cat euthanasia rates in shelters. Two sessions—led by Brian A. DiGangi, DVM, MS, Diplomate ABVP, and Carolyn Brown, DVM—have been scheduled to address these topics.

What factors do you believe inhibit pet owners from taking advantage of resources that provide spay/neuter services?

There are several factors, including public misconception about pet safety, age requirements, and access to low-cost spay and neuter clinics.

Ultimately, one of the biggest issues pet owners face is lack of information from a source they trust. Most owners want the best for their pets, and when presented with clear, unbiased opinions, they often make the right decision. That’s why Found Animals has collaborated with Aimee Christian, Vice President of Spay/Neuter Operations, ASPCA (aspca.org), to present the session Shoestring Marketing & Outreach Strategies.

As an industry and profession, we can do more to make access to spay/neuter resources available to all families.

Does your organization support any specific recommendations, such as what age to spay/neuter?

Found Animals’ goal is to reduce shelter intake by providing information about, as well as access to, high-quality spay/neuter services. This starts with educating pet owners, by informing them that spay/neuter surgeries should be performed as early as possible for healthy puppies and kittens.

Surgeries may take place as early as 8 weeks of age or when the animal reaches 2 pounds, making the procedures easier, faster, and less expensive than those for adult animals. When combined with faster anesthetic recovery and a shorter healing period, pediatric spay/neuter has proven to be an effective tool in addressing shelter intake.